PORTLAND (August 30, 2022) – Nels Johnson releases the Americana single “American Dream” on September 13. It’s off the upcoming album release, “Ios,” due out October 14. “American Dream” honors the best and most virtuous among us – immigrants.
The apex of the record, Johnson says, “The song is an ode to the parents of many of the kids I grew up with, the ones who sacrificed everything for the chance that their kids could have a better life and have opportunities that they the parents never had.’ It’s a song about the hardship and hope of being an immigrant in America.
He says, “As a kid, I had no idea how hard and how brave the decision was to cross the border, sometimes without proper documentation, sometimes leaving families behind, all to work a job that was extremely physically hard and didn’t make a lot of money.”
The lyric, “got a wife and kids back in Jalisco, last saw them years ago, when the dirt still grew,” reflects what Johnson observed with many of the male workers in the orchards of Hood River. He says, “They came up as singles, leaving their families back in Mexico and just sending money back home, hoping they’d be able to return home as soon as the kids were able to to go school. It also reflects a period in the 1990s of folks migrating across the border after a particularly bad draught that severely punished the rural parts of Mexico. He says, “The draught, plus the never-ending drug war and the adverse impacts of NAFTA, didn’t leave many rural folks with much of a choice. Either cross the border and hope you can find work or remain and starve.”
On “Ios,” Johnson leans into the theme of surrender, coming to grips with who you are as a person and what makes you happy. The songs embrace the human experience and stories that shape and change us along the way. A visit to the Grecian island, Ios, inspired the record’s theme. Johnson wrote three songs on the album, “Rest,” “Holy Men,” and part of “Surrender,” while on the island. He says, “It was a place of total relaxation, which freed me up to slow down, quiet all the loud voices and get in touch with what I was feeling. It’s hard to describe, but I experienced a sense of freedom and just comfort in my skin that I don’t know that I’ve ever experienced before.” Those themes are captured in the songs that led to the album being named after the island.
Ios Track Listing
- Sixteen Years
- The Light That Guides Me
- Her Memories
- American Dream
- Wake Me Up
- Old Virginia
- Another Peace of Mind
- Holy Men
About Nels Johnson
Nels Johnson thought he wanted a career where he’d rise the corporate ladder, so he decided to go to law school, where the experience beat all the creativity out of him. He didn’t pick up a guitar, pen, or paper for over a decade. Finally, in 2016 Johnson picked the guitar up again after realizing that the white-collar ladder was no longer something that provided meaning or something he wanted to be attached to anymore. He spent the next few years rediscovering the joy of playing and writing music and reorienting his life around the gift of being able to be creative again. Letting go or no longer resisting creativity fundamentally changed his life and has led him to a much healthier, fulfilling, and joyful place in life.